Blogs and languages

by Henry Farrell on May 1, 2006

Interesting post from Dave Sifry at Technorati: according to Technorati’s (admittedly imperfect) data set, English is no longer the number one language in the blogosphere. “Japanese is”:

bq. Something that may come as a surprise (at least to the English-speaking world) is that English isn’t the biggest language of the blogosphere. In fact, English isn’t even the primary language of one third of all posts that Technorati tracks anymore. Another interesting finding is that the Chinese blogosphere, which grew significantly in 2004 and 2005 (launches of MSN Spaces in Chinese, saw a peak of 25% of all posts in Chinese in November 2005) seems to be slowing down somewhat this year.


I know absolutely nothing about the Japanese blogosphere apart from occasional bits and pieces from “Joi Ito’s blog”: Any readers able to enlighten me?



nick s 05.01.06 at 9:36 pm

Spaces? It launched first in Japan (mid-2004), and I think it was pretty much the first blogging tool with a Japanese-language interface. Yahoo Blogs launched pretty soon after.


akumasmith 05.01.06 at 9:51 pm

I’ve lived in Japan for about five years, and now I split time between Tokyo and San Francisco. That’s the number one language in terms of posts, right? Not traffic. There are a fair number of the normal sort of blogs out there in Japanese, blogs about technology or politics, etc, but most Japanese blogs are fairly personal, sort of like myspace. Also, many blog formats allow viewing on mobile phones, which is quite a bit different than the experience here.
Finally, I don’t know if this is appropriate for a family blog such as this, but there is a sizable “erog” or erotic blog phenomenon in Japan.


Kieran Healy 05.01.06 at 10:35 pm

Insert obligatory chart snob comment here.


Kieran Healy 05.01.06 at 10:36 pm

And obligatory “shite-3D-excel-pie-charts-are-great” comment from Daniel here.


Kenny Easwaran 05.01.06 at 10:57 pm

What’s with the ordering of the segments of the pie? It’s carefully constructed to look like it goes from largest to smallest, but Japanese and Portugese get in the way. Is it ordered by size at some previous date in the past or something?


Kieran Healy 05.01.06 at 11:03 pm

The technical answer is that, as a rule, pie charts suck.


Matt McIrvin 05.02.06 at 12:01 am

For some reason, there’s a huge Russian contingent on LiveJournal.


Lee A. Arnold 05.02.06 at 12:50 am

Not a speaker, but never mind blogs. Go to YouTube and type in “jrock” Or type in a performer named “Miyavi” or “MYV”


Ronald Brak 05.02.06 at 1:45 am

If it is tracking the thumb powered posts of Japanese students on trains I’m not surprised Japanese language is number one.


Scott Martens 05.02.06 at 2:22 am

Well, the broad point I would make here is this: The Internet, rather that being an engine of cross-border communication, has merely led to a balkanization of culture along different terms. Rather than geography, people now see their horizons limited by higher barriers, the first of which is language.

“International English”, as the British Council calls it, is pure, organic, agricultural-grade bull excrement, and the web is proof of its inherent idiocy.

There was an ad that used to run on BBC World about how more people in China are studying English than there are people in the UK. And there are probably more people in the UK studying French than there are people in Luxembourg. So what? The truth is that the wealthier China gets, the less people there will speak English. This is what happened in Japan. For that matter, it’s what happened in America, where in the first half of the 19th century foreign language knowledge was essential for the well-educated, and as late as WWII was still considered an essential skill for every person with a university degree. Large, wealthy countries are crap with second languages and a China with, perhaps 20 years from now, a GDP per capita near that of the poorer countries of Western Europe, will be a nation to rival America in its linguistic autism. The ‘Net is already reflecting this.


Big Ben 05.02.06 at 2:28 am

An impressive number of my Japanese acquaintances have started blogs in the last year or so, and they’re all diary-type blogs.

I think Ronald Brak got it right that the amount of time people spend thumbing their phones here is a huge factor. The major blog services here all make moblogging really easy, so people just dash off quick blogposts from wherever they happen to be. I went on a motorcycle trip last weekend and blogged it when I got home, but the Japanese friend I rode with liveblogged it from the road every time we stopped.


Big Ben 05.02.06 at 2:38 am

And, to relate that back to the nifty piechart, all 20 or so of those moblog posts weigh against my one retrospective post in the Japanese vs. English stats.


Jack 05.02.06 at 3:38 am

Where is Korean? Surely it should be ahead of Dutch and Italian.


John Quiggin 05.02.06 at 4:38 am

Sifry mentions that Technorati has had trouble covering Korean blogs, and also the shortness of Japanese posts.


jet 05.02.06 at 9:48 am

For an example of why different languages don’t really matter, use the Google translator on Le Monde. Machine translators work well enough now and will undoubtedly get better.


Tom Scudder 05.02.06 at 2:00 pm

The Arabic translator is still shite. Although way handier than no translator at all.


Biribi 05.02.06 at 9:43 pm

Interestingly, one of the Japanese blogs I read yesterday said: “I don’t have friends who don’t have his/her own blog.” This seems to reflect the statistics.

One of the contributing factors, I think, is that the functions and distribution of cell phone. Not only amazing number of poeple have cell phone, which I found it quite more in Japan than in the US, but also the cell phone comes with the Internet. Many people upload their blogs conveniently from their cell phone while they are waiting at bus stops, etc. Maybe this could be one of the reasons why the numbers of blogs in Japan is so high.


trialsanderrors 05.03.06 at 2:48 am

Does Technorati count Myspace posts?


william 05.03.06 at 2:52 am

I m even surprised to know this fact. Till now i was under the impression that English is the biggest language of the blogosphere. But the increasing number of Japanese acquaintances is impressive.

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